How Businesses Can Help Fight Polarization
It is frightening how insensitive we have become to the growing threat we face – to our national security, our economic stability, our public health, and the integrity of our democracy – from political polarization.
There is an urgent choice we must make as Americans: to be immobilized by the depth and enormity of our differences, both real and imagined, or to seize the opportunities presented by each new crisis to reverse this vicious cycle. . We can use many of the same forces that brought us here to get out of this, but first we need to wake up and face the facts.
Evidence of the seriousness of this problem is all around us. As if all the yelling on social media weren’t enough, consider studies of congressional election activity that show our government is more polarized than it was in the post-Civil War period.
Pew polls show a steady increase in people’s attention to party line positions and less attention to the specific factors that drive our most controversial issues. These are just a few of the data points that tell us that we are in the grip of negative partisanship, which means that we are less aligned with our own party or ideology than we are against the other side.
The key to breaking this cycle is not to examine its causes with the intention of finding a one-size-fits-all solution. There are simply too many contributing factors. Some are based on individual psychology such as ethnocentric or tribal tendencies, confirmation biases, physiological differences in susceptibility to threats, and even simply the prioritization of shared values like loyalty, authority, purity, care and attention. equity. Others involve group dynamics such as conformity, extremity, and exclusion. We find ourselves in different places within the structure of our society with different norms, suspicions and grudges towards each other.
Following the polarization data, we see that after decades of bipartisan functionality, the abrupt rise to this new divisive top began at the same time as the amendments to the FECA and the actions of the FEC ushered in the era of “soft money,” followed shortly thereafter by the 24-hour news cycle.
Not surprisingly, this situation has now escalated exponentially as consumers sink deeper into isolated silos of information driven by algorithms and media producers’ need to maximize profits.
Surprisingly, it is the intensification of this problem that could provide the solution.
Studies of dozens of international conflicts over the past 200 years that have spanned several decades have shown that the majority of them (between 75 and 90%) end in less than ten years after a major political shock. The opportunity for us to act presents itself in the shock waves caused by the crisis, whether caused by polarization or simply exacerbated by it. Regardless of their position on the fallout of the 2020 election, the course of (and response to) COVID, or the withdrawal from Afghanistan, people face the kind of uncertainty that shakes the foundation of their prejudices, motivates them. to act, and allows for a more critical approach to problem solving.
If Big Tech and the mainstream media are now a big part of the problem, let’s take this opportunity to make a difference and do better.
Let’s go ahead and use technology that eschews “profit over country” algorithms for a real dialogue for a solution that can offer part of the solution. The media act as the streams in which we engender our political offspring and where they complete the rest of the life cycle. Our propensity to look to the media to find and validate our choices is something that is firmly entrenched.
Let’s go with the flow. A few additions to this ecosystem may be enough to direct its existing strengths towards its detoxification, and with a little imagination, we might even benefit from it.
Americans can take advantage of this technology to produce alternatives to existing political solutions offered by those already in power, finding successful resolutions with special attention to the complexity (or diversity) of thought and to the mitigation of unavoidable unintended consequences.
There are hundreds of organizations working online and offline to facilitate the kind of dialogue that is essential to solving our problem of polarization.
Let’s partner with them and pool our resources of influence to reach and mobilize a critical mass of electorates, inviting them to join us in a social media experience in which we share, review and evaluate our suggestions. ‘alternative policy options to feature in a more extensive mainstream media experience, in a way that entertains as much as it empowers.
We don’t have to yell at each other through social media comments that are increasingly militarized or ignored. Let us make our voices heard through the specific solutions we offer or the rating we give to the solutions of others.
Strategies exist to make this a reality in the short term, if the proliferation in culture is as explosive as others have been. Over the long term, these strategies provide the sustainability necessary to enable these solutions to gain prominence through an evolving dialogue and consensus among a diverse group of people and opinions.
It is an approach that offers companies, large and small, the opportunity to establish ESG credibility beyond greenwashing by sponsoring infrastructure. This can encourage local participation from consumers and businesses on Main Street, as they support each other with the help of a revitalized local press.
Let’s not let the opportunity pass. Let’s work together towards a culture of common sense built around a common goal: to break out of mainstream polarization with an exciting vision of a functional and competitive political market.
Let’s use technology and media to our advantage and be prepared to iterate, evolve, anticipate the challenges presented by our mistakes, and try again knowing that we, as Americans, are well positioned to succeed.
Jim Ragsdale is CEO of Mainstream Nation